The young man second from the right in this picture, is my mother’s only brother, Sydney William, known as Billy. He can be seen in several of my other posts where my Mum features as a girl, because Billy never seemed to be far away. Mum was only sixteen months younger and, although they had their spats, they were close, with Billy always looking out for his little sister. Billy left school in 1933 when he was fourteen.Times were very hard in the thirties and many grown men with families were finding it difficult to make ends meet. From 1931-1935 the unemployment total in Great Britain never fell below two million, and at its highest point in the winter of 1932-3 it almost reached three million. My grandfather was frequently laid off and I imagine the family would have been very pleased that Billy was accepted as a tiler’s apprentice, at the Midland Plastering Company in Nottingham. Not something he yearned to do, but then, like now, you took what was offered. There was no question of further education as families needed every penny. Being an apprentice meant that you learned a trade as well. The following year Billy died in an (non-work related) accident in June 1934, and Mum’s final term at school was a very sad one. When Mum left school, she went to work in Boots Offices in Station Street, Nottingham. She had to stand on a box to reach the top drawer of the filing cabinet as she was not very tall. She was the nicknamed Little Cherub and was a bit of a favourite of the rest of the office staff. When Mum finally left their employment, one of the bosses, Mr Lawson, gave her a one pound note and told her to always keep it safe as a reserve for hard times; surely a good lesson for life.
Mum had won a scholarship to the High school in Nottingham at the age of eleven and was very bright (she still is at 91). She would have loved to have taken up the offer as she wanted to be a teacher, but because times were so hard Mum’s dream was not to be. Gran asked Mum years later if she resented the decision. Of course she didn’t; she was wise enough to know that in those straitened times it just wasn’t an option. An honest hardworking family like theirs never went into debt and therefore, like Billy before her, Mum had to enter the world of work when she reached fourteen. It didn’t stop Mum wondering what might have been though, perhaps for both Billy and herself. Imagine how pleased she was when I began my studies at teacher training college in 1970.
Most of my teacher photos are the posed end-of-year class photos, of me with each year’s charges. The ones above, were taken about twenty years ago by my teaching assistant, probably to show my Mum what I got up to in the classroom. It was a small village school on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, which my own children also attended. Those pupils in the picture were lovely girls and now of course they’ll be all grown-up, perhaps with children of their own. I wonder if any of them became teachers.
This week's Sepia Saturday challenge was to use the theme of work. Why not see what other contributors can teach us, before you dash off to work.